Tag Archives: mental health

Let’s make the UK a better place for those with mental health challenges

 

Imagine being in a situation where you have had months of no sleep, you have lost over 15 kilos in weight when you were already under weight and you cannot do anything but ruminate over problems. You go to your GP, he gives you some shiny pills then tells you to book an appointment in a few weeks, and offers you no therapy or treatment. A few weeks later your mental health deteriorates to a point where you consider self-harm.

That was my story and I am lucky because I am here to tell it. I paid privately for treatment as the only other option was being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, which could have had devastating consequences for my financial and employment prospects. Luckily this episode is well behind me and my life has moved on to a much better place.

Sadly many cannot because they do not have the financial means, or support of family or friends to get through it. Around 4400 people end their own lives in England each year – that’s one death every two hours – and at least 10 times that number attempt suicide.

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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Norman Lamb on why improving mental health care is so important to him

This interview with Norman Lamb in the Telegraph.

In it, he talks about why he is so motivated to change mental health care. We knew about how he and his wife Mary have supported their son Archie through battles with OCD and, for the first time, he talks about losing his sister Catherine to suicide last year.

Anyone who has gone through those sorts of experiences, or who has tried to get treatment for mental ill health, will understand the frustrations that he describes and will understand how that drove him on to transform as much as he could while a Minister.

If you have no experience of this particular field, be in no doubt that he is telling the truth.

The Telegraph article has a letter from a 9 year old boy with Depression which was read on the Today programme. It’s horrible to think of a young child going through such pain at all, but when you think they may have to wait years for diagnosis and treatment, it makes you so angry. You need to think of the consequences of that. Think of the impact of a year, or even two years’ wait. Think how much worse a condition can get in that time. There is often no quick fix, either, so there’s more time trying to find something that works. By that time, you’re probably talking about between a quarter and a third of your years in education which have been dominated by ill health. Think of the knock-on effects on life chances, particularly if you are not from an affluent background. It truly is a scandal that we tolerate this as a society.

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Rennie calls for Minister for Mental Health

Willie Rennie and therapetWillie Rennie, seen here seemingly enacting a scene from Lady and the Tramp with a therapet during the election campaign, has called on Nicola Sturgeon to appoint a dedicated minister for mental health when the new Scottish government is announced next week.

A major part of the Liberal Democrat election campaign was a call for a step change in the way mental health services are supported.  Willie said that this appointment would send a clear message that the Scottish Government is taking mental health issues seriously:

Mental health spending has been cut as a share of the overall NHS budget every year since 2009 and too many young people still wait more than a year for urgent treatment.

Everywhere I went during the election people came up to me to say how important they felt it was to hear a political leader speaking out on mental health. It has been kept as a Cinderella service for too long.

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LibLink: David Laws – The road to student retention

David Laws has been writing for Times Higher Education focussing on the worrying number of disadvantaged students dropping out of higher education:

The UK government’s target to double the number of disadvantaged young people going to university by 2020 is laudable. Access to higher education offers a platform for young people to succeed and is central to establishing a meritocratic society.

Nevertheless, while access provides the foundations, it doesn’t build the house. If we’re really serious about meritocracy, we have to be ever vigilant about what happens to young people once they are at university too.

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Lamb says Tories failing on mental health waiting times

So, it didn’t take long for the Tories to apply the brakes to all the good work done on mental health by Norman Lamb and, before him, fellow Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow.

The Independent talks exclusively to Norman about what’s happening now he’s not there to drive things forward.

Norman Lamb, who served as the minister responsible for mental health in the Coalition government, said that vital new waiting-times targets for a range of mental health conditions including bipolar disorder and OCD “won’t happen” because the plans were not funded.

He also hit out at an NHS England decision to water down financial incentives for local health authorities to improve mental health services, and criticised “scandalously low” levels of funding for research into mental health conditions.

Mr Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson and one of the country’s leading campaigners for improved mental health services, said that “all signs” pointed to “a continuing disadvantage for those who suffer from mental illness with no prospect of it ever changing”.

He told the paper:

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: We’ve made progress on mental health but there’s still work to do

Nick Clegg has written about mental health in today’s Evening Standard column.

One story illustrates different attitudes to physical and mental health:

A few years ago, I met a man called Robert at a mental health trust in Liverpool. He was in his sixties, well-dressed and with a neatly trimmed moustache that gave him something of the air of a Fifties provincial bank manager — not the image you normally associate with severe mental illness. He told me that a few years earlier he had been in hospital with a heart condition and, while he was there, he had been visited regularly by friends and family, sometimes three or four times a day. This outpouring of love was a great tonic for him as he recovered. But he was hospitalised on another occasion — this time for a mental health condition. During the five months he languished in hospital he was visited just three times. The contrast speaks volumes.

He talks about the work that the Liberal Democrats did government, and goes on to outline 3 new priorities for action:

The first is the way it is funded. Part of the reason that there have been cuts in mental health services despite the renewed focus from government is down to an important, if technical, discrepancy in the way they are paid for. A hospital, for example, is paid by activity: each procedure has a price attached to it and the more it performs the more money it gets. Mental health trusts, on the other hand, usually get a block grant. So when demand goes up, the money stays the same.

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